Duff Johnston describes pickleball as “addictive.” He was introduced to the sport two years ago by a friend and was hooked.
“I just dove right into it,” said Johnston, 61. “I adapted to the game very quickly.”
Johnston started playing the racket sport about 1½ years ago, and now plays up to four times a week, oftentimes with other competitive players.
Players say the popularity of the sport is rising in Sooke.
The sport has three outlets for play. For the last six years, SEAPARC has run a pickleball program at Journey Middle School on Monday and Wednesday nights, and Sooke Tennis and Pickleball hold sessions twice a week at the outdoor tennis court on Throup Road. Beginning in November, a drop-in is hosted at Sooke Community Hall twice a week.
For the uninitiated, pickleball is something of a mix between tennis, racquetball and ping pong.
Players use special paddles and a wiffle ball, and games take place on tennis courts with specific pickleball lines. Nets and court sizes are smaller than their tennis counterparts, and the most common game is doubles, although singles is also an option.
The game has its own set of quirky rules – for instance, try to stay out of the “kitchen” – but they’re easy to learn.
Another benefit of the game? Pickleball is affordable, making it accessible to all. A beginner can pick up a basic wooden paddle and balls at retailers for under $50, although prices for composite paddles can run into the hundreds of dollars.
Marilyn Erickson, who plays with Sooke Tennis and Pickleball, said the game appeals for several reasons.
“For one, it’s very social,” she said. “It’s a social outing every time you get together.”
Another factor Erickson, 72, appreciates is its an inclusive sport for all ages and abilities. Many seniors in Sooke place the game after having replacement surgery for hips, knees and even cataracts, she said, adding the game is not just for seniors, but everyone.
The game is also quick, making it a convenient way to get in some exercise. Games typically run only 15 minutes each – and you can get in as little or as much as you want.
“It’s a game you can advance quickly,” said Johnston, who travels to Victoria several times a week to play with more competitive players.
Maxine Medhurst, 73, has played the sport for about six months, but has never been very athletic. She now plays four times a week.
“I’ve never been good at any sport and I’m not awesome at this, but I can play and I love it,” she said.
“It’s very addictive. I’m thinking about it all the time. It’s crazy.”
Basic rules of pickleball
• A pickleball court is a rectangle 20 feet wide and 44 feet long
• You serve underhand
• You only earn points if you are the serving team
• Paddle contact with the ball must be below the server’s waist
• Games are normally played to 11 points. You have to be two points ahead to win.
• When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning it. The serving team must let it bounce before returning. This is known as the two bounce rule.